When the electricity goes out, it is too late to begin looking for a generator. Additionally, even when you have been proactive and have secured a generator for either home, business, or portable electric backup, it is too late to find another one if it fails. With all the generators available, finding one that will last for years, providing reliable electricity in times of need is critical. You don’t want to find yourself left in the dark, especially when an electricity shortage can result in intermittent food storage or medical-device operability.
1. Knowing the purpose a generator serves
Understanding exactly why you need a generator will help you determine precisely what type of generator can meet those needs. If you buy the wrong one, it won’t prove reliable. For instance, most people buy generators for entertainment uses such as camping and outdoor-cooking events where power might not be available. The next largest group of people use generators for routine backup needs during a power outage.
Entertainment requirements and routine backup needs vary slightly in that operating a refrigerator and a hot water heater require much more power than required by a camping gear. Freezers, air-conditioning, and clothes dryers are also high-demand appliances.
Other services might remain in the dark, but a generator for the home will at least provide enough electricity for basic, routine needs.
Of course, if you require whole-house electricity backup, you will need to look for a much bigger generator. Finally, if you require a generator to ensure uninterrupted medical-device operability, you have a very specific need and require a whole-house unit with immediate-response capability.
2. Generator types
There are two types of generators: conventional and inverter.
Largely gas-operated, conventional generators produce alternating-current (AC) electricity and are the most common as they are generally cheaper. AC electricity is easier and cheaper to produce than direct-current (DC) electricity, and it generates a lot of heat.
Conventional AC generators consist of an open steel or metal tube-frame that envelops the generator body, this frame allows the generator to be moved or dollied. They run on gasoline, and they are loud and noisy. They are very reliable when used as recommended. Downsides include exhaust fumes, so they must be placed outdoors and at a distance from anything that could be affected by fumes.
In many ways, inverter generators are similar to conventional generators, but they differ on two key points. First, they are encased in a molding that helps provide quiet operation. Second, and more important, the AC electricity is converted into direct-current (DC) electricity.
DC electricity is more reliable, powerful, and efficient. It can be stored in battery form, and it works best for electronics. DC generators are typically gas-powered, but they can also be battery-powered.
3. What to look for in a generator
Decide if you need a conventional AC generator or an inverter generator that generators DC electricity.
Determine if the generator is gas-powered or battery powered. Gas-powered generators run on gasoline. They lose their power when there is no more gas. Battery-powered generators lose their power and must eventually be re-charged by electrical means. Gas-powered generators generally run longer than battery-powered units.
Compare your needs to how long the generator will provide power for one session without needing to be re-fueled or re-charged.
Generators should come with a minimum of one-year warranty. However, for reliability, look for one with a three-year, five-year, or lifetime warranty. The reason a one-year warranty is not desirable is because one year is the equivalent of one season. For instance, power goes out during storms or heavy ice. It is unrealistic to only be able to rely on a generator for one season, especially if it is only used a couple of times.
4. Portable or standby
Portable generators are hand-operated, requiring someone to manually start one and monitor it for safe usage and exhaust.
Standby generators, however, are installed by professional installation technicians. They generally come with a five-year, ten-year, or lifetime warranty, so they are known to be reliable. Unlike conventional generators, standby generators monitor existing electrical power and turn on if the power is detected as being off. For business or home use, standby generators are the most trusted and reliable generators available. For medical companies or homes where people rely on medical equipment, a standby generator is the safest choice for continued power.
5. Total power capability
Reliability typically means being available when needed. However, reliability takes on a different meaning when electricity is required. For instance, in terms of generators, people need a reliable generator capable of providing the minimum necessary power when needed. Power capability is important because a generator that will power up without ever failing sounds pretty good. However, if it is incapable of providing the necessary amount of power, it is not reliable. In fact, for your specific needs, it is useless.
Portable generators typically provide 3,000 to 8,000 watts. Standby generators typically provide between 7,000 watts and 30,000 watts.
- 1,000 watts: capable of running a washing machine
- 3,000 watts: capable of running one large appliance like a refrigerator plus two additional small ones, like coffee maker and microwave.
- 5,000 watts: capable of running one high-demand appliance, such as electric clothes dryer, window air-conditioner, heat pump, or hot water heater
Once you know the total power delivery of a generator, it is important to understand how many watts appliances use.
Note: as long as the number of watts used by all your appliances does not add up to a total number that exceeds the number of watts a generator can produce, the generator will prove reliable.
- small appliances: 100 – 500 watts
- mid-size appliances: 500 – 2,000 watts
- large appliances: 700 – 3,000 watts
- high-demand: 3,000 watts or more
6. What to look for in a sales company
Once you know how to identify a reliable generator in terms of power capability and quality, it is important to know where to look.
Finding a generator place online requires you to determine if the seller is legitimate.
- in operation for more than five years
- 100-percent satisfaction guarantees in the form of a no-hassle return policy
- solid reputation
- sells quality goods from known manufacturers
7. What to look for in consumer reviews
One of the best ways to determine the quality of a product, manufacturer, or retail company is to read consumer reviews. Consumer reviews should be available on third-party sites. They should not be reviews published and promoted by the manufacturer. If they are published and promoted by the manufacturer, the chance for biased, fake reviews increases.
To decrease the chance of reading biased or fake reviews, look online for different sources that are cross-referenced. Reviews across three or four websites will give a pretty good picture regarding people’s opinions of a product, manufacturer, or online retailer.